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Articles on Ancient humans

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Eleanor Scerri

Research reveals humans ventured out of Africa repeatedly as early as 400,000 years ago, to visit the rolling grasslands of Arabia

The new work presents the oldest dated evidence for hominins in Arabia, in the form of an ancient handaxe tool uncovered from the Nefud Desert.
Stone arrowheads (Maros points) and other flaked stone implements from the Toalean culture of South Sulawesi. Shahna Britton/Andrew Thomson

Who were the Toaleans? Ancient woman’s DNA provides first evidence for the origin of a mysterious lost culture

The first ancient human DNA from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi — and the wider Wallacea islands group — sheds light on the early human history of the region.
Collection of sediment DNA samples in the Main Chamber of Denisova Cave. Bert Roberts

Dirty secrets: sediment DNA reveals a 300,000-year timeline of ancient and modern humans living in Siberia

Our research has also uncovered major long-term changes in ancient animal populations at Denisova Cave, and has provided the first direct evidence of Homo sapiens having lived there.
Today the shoreline of Lake Malawi is open, not forested the way it was before ancient humans started modifying the landscape. Jessica Thompson

Early humans used fire to permanently change the landscape tens of thousands of years ago in Stone Age Africa

Combining evidence from archaeology, geochronology and paleoenvironmental science, researchers identified how ancient humans by Lake Malawi were the first to substantially modify their environment.
This skull, found in France, was among the first fossils to be recognized as belonging to our own species. DEA /G. Cigolini via Getty Images

How did humans evolve, and will we evolve more?

Our biggest evolutionary advantages are an ability to walk on two legs and our big brains.
A: Border Cave’s 200,000 year old fossilised grass fragments. B: The profile section of desiccated grass bedding dating to around 43,000 years ago. Both images copyright Lyn Wadley

Grass on ash: uncovering 200,000 year old beds from South Africa

Before 200,000 years ago, close to the origin of our species, people preferred the use of broad-leaved grasses to build their beds and resting areas using ash layers underneath.
The bone arrowhead (insert) found at Klasies River main site has much to teach us. Justin Bradfield and Sarah Wurz

What a bone arrowhead from South Africa reveals about ancient human cognition

The artefact comes from deposits dated to more than 60,000 years ago. It closely resembles thousands of bone arrowheads used by the indigenous San hunter-gatherers from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
The original Dikika child skull (left), a 3D model produced with synchrotron scanning (middle), and a model corrected for distortion during fossilisation (right). Gunz et al. (2020) / Science Advances.

Baby steps: this ancient skull is helping us trace the path that led to modern childhood

Our findings reveal the slowing down of brain development in our ape-like ancestors began more than three million years ago.
Reptile, avian and mammal tracks and Middle Stone Age artefacts on a large track bearing surface which has since been buried by a landslide. Images modified from Helm, et al. 2020. South African Journal of Science, 116

Fossil track sites tell the story of ancient crocodiles in southern Africa

While crocodylian fossil swim traces have been described from other continents, to the best of our knowledge the examples we describe are the first such reptilian swim traces from Africa.
Neanderthal hunting grounds in southern Siberia — the Charysh River valley, with Chagyrskaya Cave in the centre of the photo. Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Stone tools reveal epic trek of nomadic Neanderthals

Neanderthals living in a cave in southern Siberia made distinctive stone tools that can be traced to their ancestral homeland in eastern Europe — an intercontinental journey of more than 3,000 km.
A scene from the Books of the Dead (based at the Egyptian Museum) shows the ibis-headed god Thoth recording the result of “the final judgement”. Wasef et al./PLOS ONE

Holy bin chickens: ancient Egyptians tamed wild ibis for sacrifice

An estimated 1.75 million ibises were deposited at a single location in ancient Egypt. But the birds disappeared entirely from the region around 1850, and no one knows why.

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